Italian radio

Guest on Italian Radio Antenna Febea: A First Time for Everything

“In Diretta” – LIVE! This past week I had my first occasion to speak on Italian radio. I converse in Italian all the time, but simultaneously staring down a microphone was a new experience for me. I was the invited guest of Tonino Massara, enthusiastic host of the program “Terzo Millennio” (Third Millennium) on Radio Antenna Febea in Reggio Calabria. 


Reggio Calabria, Italy

Corso Garibaldi in Reggio Calabria

It was a rainy fall evening. The pavement of Corso Garibaldi, the pedestrian street that runs the entire length of Reggio Calabria’s historic center, glistened as I bustled down the main thoroughfare to meet Tonino and then head up to the radio station in the Eremo district.

Antenna Febea has been transmitting since 1980, the period in which the airwaves of Italian radio were opened up for those not associated with the state broadcasting system. Heard throughout Calabria as well as in the Sicilian provinces of Messina, Catania and Palermo, the station is a mix of music, entertainment, information and sports, being the official Italian radio of Viola Reggio Calabria, the local basketball team, and the commentary channel for the Reggina, Reggio’s soccer team.


The studio was very professional, and a few minutes before the start of the program, we were all seated in comfy, wheeled office chairs with our headphones in place and microphones poised on their moveable arms. It was a rather large microphone, at that.

Tonino, radio host and local entrepreneur, acted as his own producer, fading out the music to start the show. With quite a gift of gab he welcomed his listening audience and introduced his three guests of the hour-long program. I was in good company alongside Irene Calabrò, Reggio’s Budget and Tax Assessor, and Bruna Siviglia, President of the BIESSE Cultural Association for Societal Wellbeing.


Italian radio, Antenna Febea

Tonino Massara

Our host assured listeners that I spoke Italian perfettamente (perfectly), so we were sure to have a smooth dialogue. I admit that, although such a word gives pause, I did beam inwardly as to his buoyant characterization of my linguistic skills.

Calabrians are hospitable by nature, quite conscious of protocol and manners. Thus, the amiable host gave the guest from afar first crack at every question. Not one to shoot from the hip, I hesitated on occasion, which is uncharacteristic for your average Italian. I chalk this up to their schooling, specifically the practice of interrogazione or the oral exam, which usually takes place in front of the entire class. Growing up regularly facing what is often cited as the greatest fear of Americans, that is, speaking in public, Italians are never, or perhaps I should say extremely rarely, at a loss for words. I did my best to stare al passo or keep pace with the others.


Italian Radio

Bruna Siviglia, Tonino Massara, Karen Haid and Irene Calabrò

What did the three guests have in common? We were all women and we had the best interest of Reggio Calabria at heart.

In light of the recent focus on women’s issues, Tonino started out with a question comparing the status of women within the workplace in Italy and the United States. Italians often assume that Americans are way ahead on such fronts. I couldn’t really agree as I feel it’s a complicated issue that also has a lot to do with the availability of work. Italy historically struggles with high unemployment and when there is less to go around, people have the tendency to use anything at their disposal to give themselves the advantage.

As for the welfare of Calabria, we came from different angles, but had similar objectives: Irene, through her work in the mayor’s office, to accomplish the most with the city’s limited funds and inherited debt problems; Bruna, to develop cultural activities in Reggio with her community organization; and me, through my book, Calabria: The Other Italy, and blog that promote the city and region at the southern end of the Italian peninsula to the English-speaking world.


Strait of Messina, Italy

Strait of Messina, looking out to Sicily from Reggio Calabria

An hour passes quickly, and thinking back, I remember a moment in which I had the opportunity to bring up an issue that had bothered me whenever I walked down Via Marina, Reggio’s waterfront promenade that has a stunning view of the Strait of Messina. In financial difficulty, the city parceled out garden plots to various organizations and businesses with the understanding that they would assume responsibility for the beauty of these individual patches of land.

The program is called “Adotta il Verde” or Adopt the Green, and in theory, is a good idea. However, the follow-through left more than a bit to be desired, and personally, I found that the lovely passeggiata or walk, was not only marred by unkept flowerbeds but also by a multitude of signs naming the proud parties responsible. On occasion, I felt as though I had to control myself not to yank the advertisements right out of the ground. Well, I hope I was heard. Time will tell.

Rabarama, Reggio Calabria

“Labirintite” sculpture by Rabarama along Via Marina in Reggio Calabria


Many topics were touched upon during the program. Tonino even played a selection from my compact disc (see The Music of Walter Gieseking).

Interestingly, the word febea hearkens back to mythical stories of the ancient Greeks and invokes the ability to radiate and transmit a light that breaks through the grayest of skies and the darkest moments in time. I don’t think we had such an uphill battle that evening. Nevertheless, ho fatto del mio meglio per evitare incidenti. Loosely, I put my best foot forward not to put my foot in my mouth.

For an in-depth look at the beautiful land in the toe of the Italian boot, check out Calabria: The Other Italymy non-fiction book about daily life, history, culture, art, food and society in this fascinating southern Italian region.

“Like” Calabria: The Other Italy’s Facebook page  and follow me on Karen’s Instagram and Karen’s Twitter for more beautiful pictures and information.

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  1. Brava! So fascinating to hear that Italians do not have a fear of public speaking and also that they seem to be quick on their feet about knowing what to say in these types of unrehearsed circumstances. Did you at least know which topics the host would cover beforehand, or was even that a surprise?

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      Thanks. I suppose practice makes perfect, as they say. Observing, I think it’s important to be ready with something to say on a topic you feel secure about, no matter what the question, and then have the confidence and skill to direct the conversation where you want it to go. That way, you can always fare una bella figura or make a good impression. The topics in this instance were rather spontaneous. I still have a bit of practice to go…

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      Thanks, I sort of feel that way, too. But I’ll say that it does get easier, and observing people who speak in public all the time, like the 3 Italians I was with that evening, practice makes perfect.

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